I know it might be easier to pour your pup's food in their bowl in the morning, let them eat it periodically throughout the day, and then refill it when it's empty. But there are a few reasons why you might want to consider getting them on a feeding schedule instead.
The first, and I'd say most important reason, (and this is coming from a dog trainer!) is that getting your pup on a feeding schedule is so much more healthy for them. When they're grazing throughout the day, there's a higher chance of giving your pup too much food if you're refilling their bowl every time you notice it's empty. If you don't limit your pup's daily food intake they could quickly become overweight which can lead to many other health problems.
And if the health of your pup isn't a good enough reason, a feeding schedule is super beneficial when it comes to training your pup. When your pup only eats meals at certain times of the day, they will be more motivated to work for their food. (Especially if you're using their meal for training! ;D )
Another area of training in which a feeding schedule is beneficial is potty training. When you know what time your pup is eating their meals, (and drinking water for some pups) then you will start to recognize a pattern for when they will need to go to the bathroom. This will eliminate the guessing game you're playing when you open feed your pup.
At this point, you might realize the benefits of getting your pup on a feeding schedule, but you might be wondering how to start. . . Well maybe not, but I do know there can be a few challenges you face as you get your pup on a feeding schedule, and I am here to walk you through the steps to get your pup on a feeding schedule.
Before you begin, you need to figure out how much food your pup needs to eat. On your pup's food bag, there should be a chart showing how much food your dog needs each day. You do want to take into account your pup's activity level and where they fall on the body condition system. (Whether they are underweight, at an ideal weight, or overweight.)
For example; a 45lb adult dog that is an ideal weight, but is more active daily will eat more than a 45lb adult dog that is overweight and more of a couch potato.
This can sometimes require a bit of trial and error as you figure out how much to feed your pup. If your pup is an ideal weight and you find that they're starting to gain a little too much weight, then you'll want to cut back on their food a bit. But if they're starting to thin out then you'll want to increase your pup's daily food intake.
Once you've figured out how much food your dog needs each day you need to decide how many times you're going to feed them throughout the day. For adult dogs, you can do one or two meals a day, and for puppies under a year or underweight dogs that need to gain more weight, you will want to give them three meals a day. Divide the total amount of food your pup needs each day by how many meals you'll be feeding them.
For their first meal, scoop their portion into a bowl and set it down for your pup. Make sure they see you put it down. I know for most dogs that isn't an issue, but there will be plenty of you with a dog that isn't interested in their food at first, and I'll be going over how to deal with that later.
After 10 or 15 minutes you're going to pick up your pup's bowl whether they've finished their meal or not. Then at their next scheduled feeding time, you will scoop their meal into their bowl and set it down for another 10 to 15 minutes. Easy as that!
For most dogs, you shouldn't have too many problems with that but I know there will be some of you with dogs that don't eat their food when you set it down. Just know that it is okay! If there is food left in their bowl at the end of 15 minutes you are still going to pick up their bowl & return any leftover food to the bin or bag of food. At their next meal, you are going to measure enough food for one meal. (No. You do not combine the food they didn't eat from the previous meal with how much food they get in the next meal.) Set the meal down and give them 15 minutes to eat.
I promise you, that dogs are smart and will not allow themselves to starve. They will be fine a few days without a meal. Once they realize that they are only getting food when you set it down (and only for 15 minutes) then they will start to eat their meals when you set it out for them.
If your pup is being picky about their food you may want to look into a new brand or even a different flavor as some ingredients might upset a dog's stomach or your pup could even be allergic to an ingredient.
You could even feed your pup wet food, sign up for a fresh dog food delivery services, or even feed your pup a raw diet! But I strongly urge you to not project your feelings on to your dog and prepare a meal that is at least 3 times better than any meal you've made for your kids and feed that to your pup. Because when you start feeding your pup home cooked steak and eggs, roast beef and carrots, or whatnot they are not going to be interested in any treats or food kibble that you try to use for training.
Congratulations! You've successfully put your pup on a feeding schedule!
"But wait! I've fed my dog the recommended amount of food and added a little extra but they are STILL hungry!"
I hear you, owners with pups that have endless stomachs. I've been there. But I urge you; please do not try feeding your dog until they are no longer hungry. They will become overweight in three days if you do that.
Even though your pup might act hungry, they are fine and don't NEED more food. If you're feeling especially bad for your pups you are welcome to grab a handful of their dry food (or treats if your pup eats wet food) and do some training with them, making them earn the extra food.
Training can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You can do simple sits and downs or you can just expect them to lay at your feet while you periodically reward them, you can even play fetch and give them a treat or two every time they bring the ball back to you. Whatever you do, you need to make your pup earns any extra food they get. Now get out there, and train them pups!